The Women's Movement
- Since the 1979 revolution, women have struggled to regain lost rights and win a larger role in society, despite a regime unfriendly to women’s issues.
- The theocracy’s suspension of the Family Protection Law enacted under the monarchy once again put women at the mercy of men in the family.
- Women fared modestly in politics. They won positions in parliament, city councils, cabinet and other decision-making jobs, but in small numbers.
- But women made significant gains in education, particularly after obstacles to certain specialized fields were removed.
- After initially pushing for rapid population growth, the government launched a highly successful family planning program. Iran’s birth rate went from one of the highest to one of the lowest in the region. The budget for this program, however, was eliminated in 2012.
- President Hassan Rouhani’s first two years in office were a mixed bag for women. For example, Rouhani appointed four women as vice presidents and three women as governors but did not name women to his cabinet or revive the Ministry of Women's Affairs.
- In 2009 elections, 42 women registered to run for the presidency. All were disqualified by the Guardian Council. But for the first time, the council also indicated that women were not banned from running for the top political job.
- Because of growing pressure from both reformers and conservatives, women’s rights became one of the four top issues in the 2009 presidential election. All four candidates developed positions on women’s issues.
- In 2010, 65 percent of all university students were female. But by the 2012-2013 school year, only 48.2 percent were female, allegedly due to gender rationing policies implemented in 2012, according to the United Nations.
- In the election for the ninth parliament (2012- ), nine women were elected to the 290-member body.
- In 2012, the budget for Iran’s family planning program was eliminated. Alarmed by a rapidly aging population, the supreme leader called on women to have more children.
- In the 2013 presidential election, some 30 women registered to run. But they were all disqualified.
- In the 2014 U.N. gender inequality index Iran ranked 109 out of 152 countries, with one being the best in terms of gender equality.
- Since 1979, women have persistently emerged as one of the most dynamic political forces in the Islamic Republic. Despite many obstacles, they have won considerable freedom in education, employment, the public sphere and personal dress—all of which will be difficult to completely roll back.
- The struggle for women’s rights is central to the larger struggle for individual rights. It has become one of the four top issues in national elections.
- Women’s issues are important to both the modern and traditional sectors of society. So the pressure for expanded rights will continue, no matter who is in power.
This chapter was originally published in 2010, and is updated as of August 2015.
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"The Iran Primer"--Book Overview
The world’s most comprehensive website on Iran, “The Primer” brings together 50 experts—Western and Iranian—in concise chapters on politics, economy, military, foreign policy, and the nuclear program. It chronicles events under six U.S. presidents. It also has leader bios, timelines, data on nuclear sites—and context for what lies ahead. New articles are added at the top.